Halsey Frank: Democrats’ detrimental DA decision

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In what appears to have been little more than a political litmus test of party purity, Democrats in Cumberland County decisively chose George Soros-backed Jackie Sartoris to be District Attorney over incumbent Jonathan Sahrbeck, 65 percent to 35 percent.  The result is likely to be definitive because there is no other candidate in the general election. That means that 15,209 Democrats, less than 5 percent of the population, made the choice for 305,231 residents of the county.

If Sartoris delivers on her promises, I suspect that we will regret the decision to elect her just as the people of San Francisco came to regret their Soros-backed, progressive district attorney.

On June 7, the people of San Francisco voted to recall Chesa Boudin 60 percent to 40 percent. Boudin is the son of 1960s radicals Cathy Boudin and David Gilbert. Elected in 2019, he was one of several high-profile, progressive prosecutors around the country who had been implementing policies such as bail reform, not prosecuting petty offenses, generally reducing the number of people incarcerated, and favoring alternatives to punishment.

According to the San Francisco Police Department’s crime data, in Boudin’s first year on the job, 2020, assaults increased, and rapes, robbery, and thefts increased significantly. In his second year, they leveled off but the overwhelming perception was that the quality of life in the city had declined as measured by metrics such as trash, human waste, vandalism, homelessness, and theft.

Community leaders started a campaign to recall Boudin for failing to keep residents safe. His response wasn’t particularly diplomatic. In defeat, he was defiant and told his supporters that there were two systems of justice, one for the wealthy and well-connected and one for the rest of the people, and he had just begun to fight for criminal justice reform. So much for his regard for the will of the people.

Coincidentally, the people of Los Angeles have started a campaign to recall their Soros-backed district attorney, George Gascon, because he has turned their city into a nightmare of emboldened criminals, unsafe residents, and abandoned victims.

Back here at home, incumbent Sahrbeck ran for the Democratic nomination for Cumberland County district attorney on a platform of Democratic values such as criminal justice reform, reform of cash bail, crime prevention, prosecution diversion, restorative justice, harm reduction, and reducing incarceration.

Sahrbeck won initial election in 2018 as an Independent when the Democrat favored to win was forced to drop out due to allegations of sexual harassment. Previously, Sahrbeck had been a Republican. Subsequently, he changed his party affiliation to Democrat.

Sartoris ran on a platform of being a lifelong Democrat who stands for real reform, dismissing criminal cases caused by a defendant’s lack of financial resources, enhancing the use of restorative justice, and treating people with substance abuse disorder instead of punishing them.

There didn’t seem to be a great deal of difference between the two candidates on the issues, so the campaign devolved into one over political purity.

In the last week of the campaign, the Press Herald reported that Sartoris was being supported by $300,000 from George Soros’ political action committee, Maine Justice and Safety, which it spent on printed material, radio, TV, and social media advertising. One of the things that both Sartoris and the Soros’ PAC focused on was the idea that Sahrbeck was not enough of a Democrat. I don’t recall much complaint about shadowy PAC money from away.

According to the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund report Justice For Sale, in addition to supporting Sartoris, Soros’ supported Boudin and other progressive prosecutors around the country such as Alvin Bragg in New York, Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, Marilyn Mosby in Baltimore, Kim Foxx in Chicago, and Gascon in Los Angeles.

My sense is that violent crime has increased and the quality of life has decreased in those cities under their tenures. That is what I would expect and nothing I want to see happen here in Cumberland County. I worry that it already has but just hasn’t been reflected in the metrics or the media. There hasn’t been a conservative candidate for district attorney on the ballot since 2014 because Stephanie Anderson retired in 2018.

One of the clearest differences between the political parties is their policies toward law enforcement. Public safety is one of the most fundamental functions of government and one of the most legitimate issues in campaigns for elected office. I favor the conservative approach to it.

In a well-ordered society, by the time someone commits a crime, other components of society (family, friends, teachers, counselors, service providers, doctors) and their methods have failed to keep that person in compliance with the law. It is not law enforcement’s primary purpose to make up for those deficits. Nor does it make sense to ask law enforcement to try what hasn’t worked before. That’s not what law enforcement is designed to do. It has reached the point where something else is necessary.

That something else is punishment. At the very least, it should incapacitate the person from continuing their antisocial behavior, foster respect for the law, and serve as a lesson to deter others who may be similarly inclined. Hopefully, it will provide some vindication for any victims and persuade the criminal to accept responsibility and reform themselves.

Conservatives are more in keeping with my view of law enforcement’s role. That’s one of the reasons that I vote for them. Unfortunately, I don’t often have that chance here. 

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